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Schools stress parents should reach out

David Adlerstein
dadlerstein@starfl.com
The Apalach Times

The Franklin County Schools, now several weeks conducting classes entirely according to distance learning, will see it last until the end of the school year.

They want you to know there’s help available for parents and caregivers who are now in charge of the daily school workload, as they assist teachers working to find ways to keep students learning and engaged while at home.

“Managing digital and/or print assignments, navigating Google classroom, Google docs, and Zoom meeting sessions can be a challenge,” said Superintendent Traci Yoder.” It is the mission of the Franklin County School District that each child reaches their maximum academic, and social-emotional, potential. Let us help your child achieve both.”

Yoder said she supported Gov. Ron DeSantis’ decision to shut down schools for the rest of the school year, although will admit privately that making the announcement late last Saturday evening, with little advance notice to superintendents, ruffled feathers.

“It is the right thing to do as the safety of our students, staff, and families is the highest priority,” she said.

The release refers to the burden placed on parents, who now assume the role of teachers while either simultaneously working from home, or who as "essential workers" leave home for work each day, placing their children in the care of other family members or caregivers.

“An important element of distance learning is recognizing when the stress levels are getting too intense,” reads the district advisory. “If parents and/or students start to feel overwhelmed, it is okay to take a break. The home learning experience should be a positive one. When there are high levels of frustration, stress, or anxiety, students may need some additional supports from school and home.”

Noting the Centers for Disease Control “has consistently reported that the risk of exposure to COVID-19 is minimal for young children and adolescents,” it goes on to say research on natural disasters has proven children are more susceptible to adverse emotional impacts of traumatic events that disrupt their daily lives and routines, than are adults.

“Identifying academic struggles will likely be similar during distance learning. However, identifying social and emotional health issues could prove more challenging for teachers and parents alike,” it says, and then describes how typically, a classroom teacher will make a referral to the MTSS (Multi-tiered System of Supports) Team comprised of a school counselor and/or psychologist, guidance counselor, teachers, and school administrator. If required, school health officials and district administrators become involved.

If required, the MTSS team puts in place interventions to increase support for students' academic and social-emotional needs, working with parents to transition into treatment plans for academic and/or counseling services.

“We have licensed clinical health counselors in our schools, every day,” it reads. “Now that our campuses are closed, our counselors are holding sessions virtually and occasionally in person, in accordance with CDC guidelines. It is imperative now more than ever, that schools and parents/guardians work together to give students strategies to overcome the obstacles that they are sure to face as they learn and grow.”

Florida Senate Bill 7026 allows the district to provide counseling services to all student, most paid through a family's insurance or medical assistance plans. Any remaining balance is covered by the school district through grant and other allocations, reads the release.

“We are committed to providing counseling and support services to all students, regardless of insurance or ability to pay,” it says, noting that if applicable, student insurance is billed first, with district funding allocations covering the remainder, including co-pays.

For questions about any of the counseling or support services, or to refer your child, please contact a school guidance counselors. For elementary, reach out to Karen Ward at karen.ward@franklincountyschools.org, and for secondary school students to Melanie Copeland at mcopeland@franklincountyschools.org

Parents and guardians can also contact their child’s teacher for more information.

Yoder said distance learning is going better than anticipated, although it wasn’t without hiccoughs early on.

“The standards are different, especially in math, and people don’t have a foundation in the content,” she said. “So it can be difficult to support the students.

“The first week we got a lot of calls, helping people get signed in, but that’s down to five calls a day. That lets me know people have gotten comfortable with distance learning digitally,” Yoder said.

There will be no standardized testing this year, as per state mandate, but there will be district level end-of-year’s exams for middle and high schoolers. The state has canceled its end-of-course exams.

She said seniors will have to meet all graduation requirements, with the only exception being a possible waiver of their standardized test requirement.

Yoder said the district is busy creating end of year award programs and other activities for all students, in all grades. She said she expects some announcements on plans to come out at the end of this week.

Included in this mix are inductions for National Honor Society, end of year classroom awards, and of course, senior awards and graduation.

“We knew this was coming,” she said. “We have all been working on it.”

Leigh Smith heads up the graduation committee and Donna Barber and Lynn Clark serve as senior class sponsors. Graduation is slated for May 22, but what form it will take is being discussed and will be announced soon.,

Yoder said local organizations have been willing to extend deadlines for scholarships, and students have been able to submit their applications electronically, working closely with Copeland.